While it might not yet make financial sense, it’s already very much possible to completely cut ties with your energy company in 2019. Below we’ll tell you how to do it.
We hear from our energy companies, only when they have a bill that needs paying or when we are up for a price increase. We get annoyed and sometimes we might even call them, but most of the time we begrudgingly pay up and wonder if there really is no other way.
There is. And if you own your home, you’ve probably thought about it before; solar power. But when it’s dark, solar power doesn’t work and for most people that’s the time they use the most electricity.
That’s where batteries come in. Batteries are nothing new. They’ve been powering everything for years, but having them power homes is still rare. Below we list the reasons why and how that’s changed for 2019.
Big and bulky
Then: Old solar power battery solutions were big. BIG. They used the same type of lead acid batteries that you find in most cars. To power a house you need big arrays of these batteries. Sometimes as much as a shed full.
Now: Lead acid is out, lithium ion is in. Lithium ion batteries have a much higher energy density than lead acid batteries. That’s why they’re being used for everything from phone batteries to electric cars. Instead of a shed full of big and heavy batteries, you can now have something like a Tesla Powerwall that provides the same amount of energy and more, taking up about the same size as a large wall mounted radiator.
Then: In most cars, lead acid batteries are kept under the hood of the car. That’s for good reason, because lead acid batteries emit highly toxic fumes that can be dangerous when kept in poorly ventilated areas. Naturally, most people don’t want to be around that, and they definitely don’t want it in their house.
Now: With the move to lithium ion batteries, this too has changed. Lithium ion batteries are sealed. Just like on your phone, there’s no breather holes. You don’t have to fill them up with acid. They just work. Because of that, people feel much more comfortable to have them in and around their homes.
Longevity and reliability
Then: Lead acid batteries is pretty simple tech. Power goes in, power goes out. That simplicity helped keep the price down, but efficiency was offset by a short life expectancy. For cars this is less of a problem as most car manufacturers expect a car to be out of warranty by the time the battery dies, so replacement is no longer something for them to worry about. Most people expect to stay in their home for longer than they expect to keep a car however, so the shorter life expectancy and lower reliability, combined with the other reasons given, is something that held a lot of people back.
Now: Lithium ion batteries are a lot more advanced, but the most important change has come from so the called “battery management system” or BMS for short.
Instead of putting some batteries together and wiring them up like was the case with lead acid batteries, new solar power batteries come with computers that monitor the battery. Down to the single cell (a battery pack can be made up from hundreds of cells). The BMS makes sure the cells stay within the optimal temperature range, charge and discharge at the optimal rates and it can even learn behaviour patterns to make sure you get the best possible result for the longest possible time.
As a result modern solar power batteries are much more reliable and will last for much longer.
By now you’re probably thinking “Why doesn’t everyone get these new batteries?” The reason is simple; cost.
The old lead acid battery systems were fairly affordable, but had their flaws. New lithium ion battery systems solve pretty much all of these flaws, but are significantly more expensive.
So expensive that in most cases the best way, to save the most money is to only get solar power and have the energy companies pay you for the energy you generate with your panels.
Cost of modern battery systems is rapidly coming down however. Technological advancements are made every day and there’s a constant buzz about government incentives for renewable energy being extend to solar power batteries.
That’s why there’s been an increased interest in battery ready solar power systems in the last couple of years, because people want to enjoy the savings right now, but also want to be ready when solar power batteries become economically viable in the next couple of years.